My favorite kitchen books

Hi y’all! In this post I want to share my favorite kitchen books and why I think it’s worth reading them. Notice I said kitchen books because not all of them are actual cookbooks even though they may contain recipes. Back in 2009 and 2010 when I became pregnant and had Lil Diva I began to learn about how to manage a household efficiently. I also became addicted to reading blogs. They were relatively new then but I was grateful for the people who wrote them and shared so much information! That’s probably why I always wanted to blog lol. I wasn’t a SAHM but a lot of the things I learned from mommy bloggers helped me be able to work and feed my family well. And helped me to stay on a budget. So today I’m passing this information on to you!

First we’ll start with my absolute favorite cookbook ever even tho apparently I have lost it in my move last year BUT I have it on kindle lol so…

This was one of the very first books I bought when I really got interested in making cooking and meal planning work for me. I was OBSESSED with my slow cooker and I wanted to try every recipe possible. Well it’s probably in this book! One of the reasons I love this cookbook so much is that it has sooo many recipes using simple ingredients you probably already have. When cooking for different people who seem to have different taste buds it’s always best to cook simply. I’m more adventurous when it comes to cooking because I love trying new things but my family isn’t. If you want to get started cooking for your family start with this book and inexpensive slow cooker and plan 2-3 nights a week. You will discover it’s not hard to put together a meal at all. .

Miserly Moms by Jonni McCoy was one of the first books I read on learning how to be frugal. Not cheap but frugal which to me means being able to meet the lifestyle goals I want by managing my money well. I’m not quite there yet lol but I’m trying. In this book I learned and still live by several principles she shared in her Eleven Miserly Guidelines. She taught me not to shop at the same store and making a menu plan based on grocery ads. This book was written for women who wanted to make the switch and stay at home with their children vs working outside the home but they’re are so many gems here that can be applied to anyone who wants to save money. I highly recommend this book. I also have her second one Miserly Meals on Kindle where she shared more recipes.

Cut your Grocery Bill in Half by Steve and Annette Economides (America’s Cheapest Family which is their other book and also very good) is another book that isn’t a cookbook that contains a few recipes (but not many) BUT it really gives good information about reducing your grocery costs. Some things I learned from this book: more tips on menu planning, knowing food prices for your area and stretching meals and how to store and organize your refrigerator and pantry. They also talked about once a month grocery shopping and cooking and even though I don’t practice this there some good tips to glean from it.

Family Feasts for $75 a Week by Mary Ostyn is still a book I reach for often. She is one of the original several people’s mama and has TEN kids! Some biologically and some thru adoption from other countries which is really cool because she shares recipes from her kids origins in this book as well. Why I love this book: In addition to the many recipes I have tried and love she also gives helpful tips on how to grocery shop, meal preparation and has a section on the homemade pantry which gives recipes for dressings, seasoning mixes and more you can make yourself. I recommend this book especially if you are feeding a larger family like myself.

Who doesn’t love Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman? I have been following her blog and making her recipes for YEARS and she has not disappointed me yet. She has about 5 cookbooks currently but her first two The Pioneer Woman Cooks and Food from My Frontier are my absolute favs! The reason I love these books: She cooks real food with a little fancy stuff thrown in here or there. This where I learned how to add cream cheese to my mashed potatoes (best idea ever and no you don’t taste it) and how I learned to cook the beat pot roast ever. She also has a bomb lasagne recipe! Get these books if you want to hearty and filling down home food! Also she still has tons of recipes on her blog which I love!

Miss Kay is the beloved matriarch from the Duck Dynasty Family and she can cook! In Duck Commander Kitchen she shares May recipes she has made to feed her family through the years. I enjoyed this book real southern food using regular ingredients. Again sometimes I think I’m fancy and my cooking will reflect that but there is nothing like a good bowl of pinto beans and cornbread which she shares in this book. If you’d like to try your hand at southern and some creole/Cajun recipes check this book out!

If you know me you know I enjoy baking. And one of the recipes I use to be famous in my family for was Red Velvet Cake! Well The Cake Mix Doctor by Ann Byrn is where I got this easy but delicious recipe from and it’s absolutely worth the cost of the whole book. Cake mixes are cheap but you can make truly delicious recipes from them and she shows you how in this book. She also shares some frosting/icing recipes and shares history & tips on how you can use cake mixes to make delicious cakes (some with some alcohol!) brownies and bars. This is one of my top favorites, if you love to bake or even if you don’t but would like to contribute a delicious desserts for family gatherings and holidays- get this book!

Yeah so I think this book is going to be my favorite favorite!!! It’s my dinner inspiration ebook!!! I’m writing a book lol. I won’t call it a cookbook per se because it’s more like me sharing recipes I’ve tried and loved and passing on to you to make your own. I’d like to think on my platforms I don’t show you how to cook but I inspire you to want to make something (mostly dinner lol) good to eat! Hopefully this ebook will make you want to cook and actually like it, that’s my only goal. Look for this ebook to be available for purchase next month!

Editors note: My cookbook is finished! Looking for delicious but easy recipes that don’t use complicated ingredients? I got you! Check out my cookbook which is available to purchase here: https://payhip.com/b/WN19

So those are my picks and link to all the books are discussed is here. Listen I heard if you want to hide something from someone, put it in a book. Don’t let that be you. I understand knowledge about any and everything can be found online but there is NOTHING about having your own library that can never be taken away from you! Let me know in the comments if you already have these books or which ones you’re looking forward to purchase!

Love Ricki

If you decide to make a purchase through my link, I will earn a small commission for it. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to offset expenses to run this blog and other platforms so thank you!”

Cook with Me: Taco Ring

Hi Y’all! I recently filmed a Grocery Haul & Cook with Me on YouTube sharing the infamous Taco Ring Recipe. I figured I would also write it out for anyone that wants to try it! Hope you enjoy and don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to this blog and my YouTube channel for more content on the single mama life on a budget!

Looking for more recipes like these? Check out my new cookbook available for purchase here: https://payhip.com/b/WN19

Love Ricki

Meal Planning for People who don’t like to Meal Plan

I don’t understand why people have to be rebels and not get with the program. Meal planning is where it’s at!!! *Insert clapping hands* It saves time, money and it’s waayyyyy less stressful than standing in front of the refrigerator and squinting and frowning because you don’t know what the hell you’re going to make for dinner! Plus you’ll have less wrinkles. BUT I know it isn’t for everyone so that’s why I am writing this post. Some people just like to live on the edge and they can afford botox so meal planning is not a top priority. However, I want to show you how you can meal plan even if you don’t like it and I also included some meal ideas for when you are stumped on what to make. So here are my tips:

  1. Keep a stocked pantry/fridge/freezer. To be able to cook meals on the fly you have to have inventory. Make sure you have the basics you need to make simple recipes and your favorite recipes. This way you are always able to make the process of choosing what to have for dinner easy.
  2. Make your own recipe book. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can get a notebook from the dollar tree and write down every recipe you ever made or want to make. Or you can just keep a master list in your phone. Or dedicate a board on Pinterest. The key is to have a list that you can refer to when trying to come up with an idea of what to make for dinner. And even if you DO like to meal plan you should have a list of recipes to refer to when planning out your meals for the weeks anyway.
  3. Assign a theme to every night. Sunday – Soul food Sunday, Monday – meatless Monday, Tuesday – Taco Tuesday, Wednesday – Italian Night, and on and on. You assign it based on what your family usually likes. That way at least you have an idea to start with on what to make. For example for Taco Tuesdays you can make tacos, nachos, enchiladas, chimichangas etc.
  4. Have a Fend for Yourself (FFY) night or nights – I actually include this in my meal plan but it’s an easy idea that everyone should follow. This actually doesn’t involve eating out. It means you get the night off from cooking and everyone figures it out. I have older children and no husband so this is pretty easy for me but this can be done with smaller kids by buying their favorite lunchables and snacks & fruit and letting them eat it for dinner. I promise YOU WON’T GO TO JAIL FOR FEEDING YOUR KIDS SNACKS FOR DINNER! I mean just don’t do it everyday, Or do. I won’t tell anyone. Little kids are usually snack lovers anyway so in my opinion it’s a win/win for everyone. And as far as the husbands, since I no longer have one I probably am not the best person to follow advice from but I’m pretty sure they can figure it out too. I’m just saying! *shrugs shoulders*
  5. My final tip is utilize the internets. Google is your friend. So is Pinterest. And blogs like this one. If you have some ingredients on hand and you are not sure what to make, put it in a search and see what recipes you can come up with. I will warn you though this is truly living on the edge because you may not like what you try but then again you just might. That kind of living raises my blood pressure because I HATE wasting food and my money but if you got it like that…heeyyyyyy.

So those were my tips for meal planning for people that are so against the awesome idea of planning what to eat in advance so they are not stressed and hungry. No judgement from me lol. Below I have listed a few meal ideas for when you THINK there’s nothing to eat in the house. And of course they are all budget friendly. Let me know what you thought of this post and if you meal plan or if you’re a rebel and choose to live life dangerously hungry!

Simple Meal Ideas:

Soup & Sandwich – Can of soup and your favorite sandwich with deli meat or a bowl of Top Ramen with the deli meat or leftover chicken in it.

Quesadillas – Anything can go between two tortillas and some cheese. Beans, meat, veggies, the options are endless.

Baked potato bar – Baked potatoes are super filling and can be plain or topped with whatever you can think of.

Pasta night – You can use any shape pasta you want, any sauce and add any topping and you are even better than Chef Boyardee.

Pizza & Salad – Frozen pizzas (even those cheap ones for a dollar!) and a simple salad can satisfy hunger. Or you can make your own by buying the pre made crusts or using tortillas, bagels, garlic toast or even a slice of bread. Pretend you’re at Mod’s and pile on the toppings, it’s free (kinda).

Love Ricki

How to “make” groceries! 10 Tips for grocery shopping on a budget

Now you may be saying Ricki, how do you “make” groceries? Simply put that’s what the old folks say in the south when referring to going grocery shopping. Last week we talked about meal planning but now its time to take that plan, make a list and get the food in the house that you need.

Since I usually grocery shop on Saturday morning, I do my prepping on Friday so I am prepared and stay on budget. So I’m sharing 10 tips with ya’ll. Here we go:

  1. ASSESS YOUR INVENTORY -Before you go to any store, you need to assess your refrigerator, pantry and freezer first. Look at your meal plan, do you have things already that you can use? What staples are you running low on? WRITE ALL THIS DOWN!
  2. WRITE A QUICK LIST-Next take the list you just jotted down and your meal plan and write out your grocery list. Having a grocery list is necessary to shop on a budget. If you have a list you will not buy unnecessary items and you won’t forget the things you actually need. Now this is a rough draft. Because the next step is to…
  3. SET A BUDGET- UGH! I know right but this is usually where we mess up at. If you don’t set an amount I am telling you now, you WILL OVERSPEND! In order to stay on budget set an amount. I usually like to set a few, let me explain. I have a amount I will spend on groceries like $60 for the week, then I may add an additional $10 for stock up items – we have a store here that will discount great things to very low prices so I use this extra amount to take advantage of a great deal. And then I may have an extra $5-$10 for fun items, like a treat for the kids or to try a new product. So my budget for the week would be $75-$80. Look at your rough draft list and maybe remove some things that may cause you to go over budget like do ya’ll really need steak this week? Is there a veggie or fruit in season that you may like that will be cheaper to replace one on your list? When you buy in season you are getting better quality at a better price. Once you’ve set your budget you can make your final list.
  4. KEEP UP WITH YOUR LIST- I won’t tell you how many times I forgot my list at home which defeats the whole purpose so TAKE A SCREENSHOT of your list and your meal plan or write it in the notes section of your phone. I bet you won’t leave that phone! Seriously, when trying to save money you have to make things easy and convenient or you won’t stick to it!
  5. TIME TO SHOP- But before you head to the store you need to make sure you’ve eaten a full meal. When they say don’t shop on an empty stomach no lies were told. Listen, EVERYTHING looks good when you’re hungry! Don’t play yourself! Also, if you can, grocery shop in the morning before you run the rest of your errands etc. Shopping with a clear mind leads to better decisions and if you can leave the kids at home (unless they’re older kids that can help) DO IT!!! And if you know you have a tendency to spend at the store, take out cash and leave your cards at home. Hunny, you will stick to the budget in order not to be embarrassed in that checkout line. Ask me how I know lol.
  6. SET A TIME LIMIT- The more time you spend in the store the more money will part from your wallet. Why do you think they have all those free samples at stores on Saturdays? The main objective is to keep you in the store longer so you will be more likely to spend.  The grocery stores specialize in using psychology to help you part with your money at their establishments. They spend millions of dollars on learning our behaviors. You have to outsmart them and stop letting them win. Set a time period for each store you visit and stick to it. I actually started doing this so my older kids would come help me because they said I took too long but I noticed it actually helped our budget!
  7. DOWNLOAD THE STORE APP AND ANY DIGITAL COUPONS- Now you actually should have checked the store ad when you were making you meal/menu plan however sometimes you may get in the store and find something you really may need. Check to see if the store has a digital coupon. Also you may want to check another store’s app to see if maybe they have the same thing on sale. There also apps that get into cash back. I don’t know too much about them but you can always do a google search. Anyway the technology is available, use it!
  8. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF STORE BRANDS- Honestly the time of being brand loyal is over. Many but not all store brands are made by the same manufacturer. You have to understand there is not a manufacturer for every single product, that’s just not feasible. When you buy a store brand, like butter if you take it out the box you’ll notice it will have the same wrapper as another brand lol. It was made at the same dairy it’s just cheaper because there is no brand label. Now is this true of every store brand, no but it doesn’t hurt to try them out.
  9. USE YOUR CALCULATOR-Again back to that budget thing, if you want to prevent overspending take out your phone and use that calculator function! I usually round up when calculating but it helps to stay on track and you can also use your calculator to determine if buying in a certain quantity is a good deal. Also, every thing that’s on sale isn’t a good deal if you’re not going to use it. Exactly how many time have we thrown away a food item because we couldn’t or didn’t use it prior to expiring. Please remember that when you throw wasted food away you are actually just making a donation to the grocery store. I need all my coins, what about you?
  10. SHOP ONCE A WEEK- Ideally if you shop according to your list for the week you SHOULDN’T need to come back to the store again. I personally don’t like having to go to the grocery store several times a week, that’s my time I can’t get back and my gas! But things happen and sometimes we forget because we are human. If you do need to pick something up quickly try to just bring the cash for that item so you won’t be tempted to spend more.

Those were my 10 tips to have a successful grocery shopping trip on a budget. Let me be real with ya’ll it takes a few times to get this down so please don’t beat yourself up if you mess up. I do all the time lol. But eventually you will find a system or routine that works for you and. your family. Take all the tips and apply them or a few. Depending on where you are in life every tip might not apply. The number one thing is to have a plan and that will set you on the right path! Make sure you follow me on IG (@severalpeoplesmama) because on Saturday I will be headed to the grocery store on my stories so you can see exactly how I shop. What grocery shopping tips can you share? Comment below!

Love Ricki

Easy Shrimp Fried Rice

Shrimp fried rice is a favorite at my house and easy meal to whip up even on a weeknight. I wanted to share the recipe with y’all and a little tip I recently discovered. This recipe comes together quickly and uses basic ingredients but you can definitely turn it up a notch or two by adding specialty flavorings found at your local Asian market. Let’s cook!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 package of medium size shrimp, peeled and deveined. I used larger shrimp for this particular recipe because I was serving it as a main course instead of a side dish
  • 1/2 tsp of minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup of onions (I used a shortcut, a bag of frozen onions cause I was too lazy to chop veggies)
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 bag of frozen peas and carrots
  • Soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsb of sesame oil (this is optional but it gives it great flavor and is easy to find. I found mine in the Asian food section of Walmart)Ingredients

Directions

Began by heating the vegetable and sesame oil in a large skillet on medium high heat

Add the beaten eggs and lightly scramble. Then move eggs over to a cooler part of the pan.

Add frozen peas and carrots and sauté til warmed through. I also added the onion and garlic to the frozen veggies.

Add shrimp and cook. I seasoned my shrimp with a light sprinkle of soy and teriyaki sauce, garlic and onion powder and a dash of ground ginger and rice wine vinegar but season however you like just be careful with the soy sauce cause it will cause your dish to be salty and we will be adding some later.

After the shrimp are cooked thru add leftover COLD rice. This is the trick to good fried rice. Fresh or warm rice will just become mushy so this is the perfect recipe to use up those leftovers in the fridge. You can add whatever kind of frozen veggies you like and leftover chicken or make it strictly vegetarian. You can also make it low carb by using riced cauliflower just make sure it’s cold!

Now mix everything together and add soy sauce to taste. I usually only add a few dashes and let the kids add more if it isn’t enough for their taste buds.

Now you’re done and you have a very delicious meal or side dish and it’s easy, quick and budget friendly!

We like to eat ours with homemade egg rolls and this time we also added homemade crab rangoon.

Please let me know if you try this recipe and also what other recipes you’d like to see on the blog!!!

Love Ricki

Stuffed Chicken

Hey y’all this recipe is delicious but it is also special. A friend/co-worker shared this with me almost 10 years ago. She made it for our team at work and when I asked her how to make it she wrote out the recipe for me. Now you already know people don’t like to share their stuff sometimes but she did it with no problem and also gave me a cake recipe which I will be sharing with y’all in the future. But the real reason this recipe is so special is sadly my former coworker passed away in 2017. But she will live on in my heart and I think about her generosity every time I make it! I truly hope you make this and share with your friends and family because I know she would have wanted that.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken- Note: I normally use Chicken breast but they weren’t on sale (I feed six ppl who all eat like adults) so this was my very first time trying it with chicken thighs and I’ll never go back to breasts! I prefer boneless skinless but the bone is fine just pull off the skin.
  • Chopped onions, bell peppers and mushrooms
  • Olive oil
  • Seasonings of your choice
  • Dry ranch dressing seasoning
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Shredded Italian cheese mix
  • Frozen spinach, cook it in the microwave and squeeze out excess water
  • 8 oz block of cream cheese

Directions:

  • Sauté your onions, bell peppers and mushrooms in olive oil or butter

  • While your veggies soften mix up your cream cheese and spinach. If you forgot to take out your cream cheese earlier like me then pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds or so with the spinach and that will make it soft and easy to mix.

  • Now add the softened veggies and cheese to the spinach and cream cheese and mix together. Add the dry ranch seasoning. Season to taste with your spices of choice. I used garlic powder, Tony’s, black pepper and onion powder.

  • Set your oven to 350 degrees and in a large frying pan on about medium high heat place in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil or oil of your choice.
  • Set your mixture aside and wash your chicken. Now I know washing chicken can be controversial but it’s what I do. Do what you do and we won’t have any issues.
  • Cut a small slit in your chicken. It doesn’t have to be real deep and PLEASE don’t cut yourself. You just want to make a pocket to put the stuffing in. Season your chicken.

  • Stuff your chicken with the mixture and then set aside until you’ve stuffed each one. Don’t try to overstuff because you will have stuffing left over. Don’t worry, my family doesn’t let me waste food so we will use it!

  • Now I place each piece in the pan to sear and brown. This sears in the juices and also I don’t like light chicken. It is just not appetizing. Put some brown on that chicken so I know it’s real!!!
  • Also don’t worry about the stuffing coming out. Just use your tongs and stick it back in. Or leave it out. I wouldn’t but you are an adult so you make that decision.

  • After you have browned the chicken place it in the baking pan. Pour the leftover stuffing over the chicken. Told you we would use it! Bake for about an hour. You may need more time if you used breasts as those are bigger pieces. I encourage you to try the thighs though because they were so juicy and tender! Chicken is done at 165 degrees but if your seasoned like me you know to just cut it open in the biggest part to check lol.

And you’re done!!! I served this with roasted potatoes and a salad but I just had the salad because I am not eating carbs (sad face). This dish is Keto and Low Carb friendy for all my people trying to lose weight in the new year like me! No judgment! I hope you try this and make sure you share this post so my friend’s generosity can live on thru her recipe.

Love Ricki

Mexican Stuffed Shells

Enjoy this easy and quick meal any day of the week!

So when I first shared this recipe on my Instagram stories (@rickiloves) a few weeks back it was going down in my DMs! Finally I was able to make it again so I can share it with you all! Please let me know if you make it and I hope you enjoy!

You’ll need:

Ground meat (I used about 2lbs)

Taco seasoning

Ranch dressing seasoning (not pictured)

Salsa or Picante Sauce (It’s a TX thing!)

Enchilada Sauce

1 block of cream cheese

Jumbo Shells

Colby Jack or Mexican Blend Shredded Cheese

Fixins (toppings like sour cream, guacamole, etc)

Directions:

  • Cook ground meat in a skillet and season with taco and ranch dressing seasonings while you boil the jumbo shells
  • Add block of cream cheese and mix thoroughly
  • After Shells have finished cooking drain, rinse with cold water and let cool.
  • Pour salsa or picante sauce in the bottom of a pan (I used the pan I make lasagna in) until the bottom is complete covered
  • Take cooled shells and stuff with ground beef mixture and add to pan over the salsa.
  • After the pan is filled pour can of enchilada sauce over the shells. Top with cheese.
  • Bake covered with foil in oven set on 350 degrees for 15-20 mins then remove foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted thru.

I topped mine with fresh cilantro and served it with fixins and charro beans!

This is an easy and quick recipe that is a different twist on Stuffed shells and my family loves it. I have included the link for the video I used for this recipe below because she gives great tips on how to freeze it. Give this meal a try and make two so you can freeze one for later because you WILL want to eat it again!

Love Ricki

Easy Garlic Lemon Trout

So I did an Instagram live a few weeks back where I showed how I made my trout for an easy light dinner and I got so many messages asking for a recipe! So I decided to make it again (and my family definitely didn’t mind) and write a blog post. I initially started eating trout by mistake, I thought I had bought salmon (#seasonedwomanproblems) but it turns out we prefer trout because it is lighter in taste and less fishy. You can definitely use this recipe with salmon tho!

Ingredients:

Trout

Olive oil (or whatever oil you prefer)

Butter (I use salted)

Lemon juice or fresh lemons

2-3 garlic cloves or minced garlic from the jar

Seasonings of your choice: I used Tony Cacheres, montreal chicken seasoning, garlic powder, New Orleans style seafood (from Dollar Tree, if you see it, get it!), and garlic salt

Directions:

Pour about 2-3 tablespoons of oil all over the fish and rub in.

Season fish with seasonings (1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of each seasoning) of choice and rub into the fish along with minced garlic.

Cut lemon and pour juice over the fish. Make sure you get all you can out that lemon. Tip: you can either roll a lemon with your hand a few times to warm it up or place it in the microwave for about 10-15 secs and you will be able to squeeze more juice out.

Cut up butter I used about 3/4 a stick and place pats of butter all over the fish. Also take a lemon and cut up in slices and place on the fish.

Put in oven on 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes then turn on the broiler and broil fish for about 2-3 minutes (Don’t leave watch closely so you don’t burn it!) When it comes out the oven you may notice some black specs don’t worry that’s just the butter it’s perfectly normal.

Your fish should look like this!

Serve with a starch (we like roasted red potatoes or rice) and a salad or green beans! When I’m on my Keto diet I will just eat it with a salad.

Hope you enjoy and if you try it please let me know!!!

Love Ricki